Summary: When conducting corporate ethnographic research, taking a worldview (observing broadly from various sources and in various ways) will help us realize more innovative, new and obscure insights. Rather than focusing on the obvious problems, patterns or desires of the customer, these methods challenge designers to look for more meaningful opportunities. The results will be mutually beneficial to the designer, client and customer. A few of the more interesting methods include:
1. Cultural forces: What technology trends, social attitudes or demographic patterns are influencing the lives of the consumer? Do trends influence their lives now or did they influence their decisions in the past? These issues might affect the way a customer feels, thinks and behaves toward a brand.
2. Synthesizing multiple sources: Expand interpretations by drawing on other sources, including people the consumer interacts with and how they act in multiple situations. You can gain a better understanding of the subject when you understand all the nuances that impact their life, how they interact with other brands, etc.
3. Collaboration with consumers: Millennials (aka Generation Y, born between 1980 and 2000) expect full participation and interaction within the marketplace. They prefer to start a dialog with a brand and respond better companies invite consumers to participate and share their thoughts (ex. Yelp, Nike ID). Let the customer guide the brand and give feedback.
4. Turn the lens inside: People within the company can have a better understanding of the customer if they adopt the worldview of that customer. Rather than observing, have employees put themselves in the customers’ shoes in order to develop products that are more relevant to consumer needs. Have a full understanding of the customer’s values, needs and behaviors to grasp consumer insights better.
5. Widen to business ecosystem: Main goal of research in the past has been to connect the producer to the customer. Create more value by expanding to middlemen or groups with specific interest in a new approach. Understanding the entire ecosystem, or industry, will help better align goals and uncover new opportunities.
1. How much more time consuming is design based on ethnographic research and will customers see the value?
2. What about in situations where customers/users/those being affected either can’t be observed or don’t want to be observed?
3. Are there certain methods of ethnography that are better suited for specific projects or products?